After noticing a lack of support for foster children on campus, University of Wisconsin student Beau Vande Walle decided to take action and create Together We Rise this spring.
Together We Rise is part of a national nonprofit organization, for which Vande Walle previously interned. He said he, along with his roommate Ben Rangel, founded the organization on UW’s campus this semester.
At a national level, the nonprofit organization provides solutions to address the needs of children in foster care programs in America, Vande Walle, the current president of the UW chapter, said.
“‘We are an American family, and we rise or fall as one nation and as one people’ is a quote that the national [organization] uses,” Vande Walle said.
As a national organization, the group’s aims to improve the lives of foster children in America so they do not feel forgotten or neglected by the public as well as transform their foster care experience, its website says.
Until the UW chapter of Together We Rise started, Vande Walle said there was not an organization on campus that specifically provided aid to children in foster care.
Because the organization is so new on campus, most of their activity contributes to the larger Together We Rise program through fundraisers, Daniel Roque, the organization’s recruitment officer, said.
In the future, Roque said they hope to hold events that will bring some foster care kids to campus and show people the effects not having a parent has on these children. The group also hopes to plan events where students can volunteer at local foster care homes next semester, he said.
“We started the org because we noticed foster care was an area that was overlooked when it came to helpful organizations on campus,” Roque said.
Although the profits being made by the organization currently benefit the larger national group, Vande Walle said the organization plans to get involved with local foster homes in Dane County.
Vande Walle said the group has a diverse membership base with many different backgrounds and majors. He said all the members are united by their shared attraction to the philanthropic cause of benefiting foster children.
Roque said he has a cousin who was adopted, which helped him realize how different lives of children in foster care are and how fortunate his cousin is.
“I have a soft spot for kids,” Roque said. “I truly believe that given the right environment, any kid can excel and live up to their true potential.”
Vande Walle said besides creating a sense of self-efficacy by helping children in need, Together We Rise helps members with professional skills like planning, organizing and executing fundraising events.
Currently the group’s numbers are only in the 20s, but Vande Walle said the group plans to increase recruitment efforts next semester.
Although it is currently a small organization, it is benefiting an important cause, Roque said.
“Foster care itself is extremely important and as UW students we should show support for the town and its future,” Roque said.